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‘Rocky Horror’ Gets One Last Toast At Magic Lantern

Midnight strikes at Spokane’s Magic Lantern Cinemas as the usual creatures of darkness shamble in.

A teenage girl in a black cape-like garb has decorated her cherubic face with more eye shadow and white pancake makeup than Morticia Addams.

The scorched hair on another youthful hipster looks like the tragic results of a toxic peroxide spill.

Then there’s a long-haired teenager whose glazed countenance suggests either too many drugs or too much heavy metal music.

Taking in this odd human parade, a scary thought flashes through my mind: Where will these strange souls celebrate the witching hours when the plug is yanked on “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”?

“This city has one more weekend left, then it’s ashes,” grumbles Pat Kavanaugh, 47, half-jokingly. As the comically twisted “Doc Midnight,” Kavanaugh has been introducing crowds to “Rocky Horror” for years.

Not much longer. Owners of the Magic Lantern - a cramped, funky place - decided recently that a continuous 7-1/2-year run of late-night weirdfests was more than enough.

So after Saturday’s performance, the curtain drops like a guillotine’s blade.

It’s a cruel Christmas present to Spokane’s alternative scene as well as “Absolute Pleasure” - the semi-professional troupe of 20 actors who simultaneously mimic the “Rocky Horror” roles along with the movie.

“I’ll have to rediscover normalcy,” mutters Kavanaugh of life after “Rocky.” “I don’t know if I’ll like it, but I don’t have much choice.”

For those who never bothered, “Rocky Horror” is a wretchedly made, sexually ambiguous and flamboyantly bizarre horror musical circa 1975.

The thing is utterly dreadful enough to attracted a cult following of crazies who regularly revel in the show’s badness.

“Rocky” aficionados bellow dirty rejoinders at the screen, dance the Time Warp, squirt each other with water, hurl toilet paper and have a generally obnoxious time. “Rocky” as performance art began at Magic Lantern in the late 1970s and was interrupted several times when the theater changed hands. This last run is by far its longest.

“I feel really guilty, but life goes on,” says Magic Lantern co-owner Kathryn Graham. She places most of the blame for ousting “Rocky” on the shoulders of her business partner, Larry Blair.

Graham says they plan to spend $1,000 on a new screen, spiff up the theaters and want to avoid any possible damage from the players. Besides, she points out, the “Rocky” schtick brings in a measly 50 bucks a weekend.

Graham’s excuses leave a burned-toast taste in the mouths of the cast members, who hope someday to find another location to resume their midnight madness. Good luck.

Until then, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will fade into another Spokane footnote filed under a familiar heading:

“Cool things you used to be able to do in this city.”

Requiem for a young friend

Time finally ran out for the boy so absorbed with old watches.

Matt Vahlstrom’s lifelong battle with cancer ended quietly at home last Thursday morning. He was 18.

“He took one last breath and was gone,” says his mom, Sherry.

Getting to know Matt was one of those rare privileges that sometimes comes with being a journalist. I helped Matt celebrate his final birthday last July by prowling Hillyard antique stores.

Matt loved watches. He could tear one apart, put it back together and give you a lecture on the company that made it.

“I have no fear,” he told me last summer. “I don’t know why. That’s just the way I’ve always been.”

Matt’s deep, abiding Christian faith gave him courage to face his killer with amazing grace. His friends and loved ones will say goodbye Friday, 7 p.m., at the Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church.

“He fought the fight wonderfully well,” adds Sherry. “It’s almost like we were given a glimpse of heaven watching him.”

Adios, pal.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo